Sunday, September 30, 2012

The New TV Season and International Relations

I have been asked by some of my twitter friends (followers makes me sound like a cult leader) followers about my take on the new TV season, especially Revolution and Last Resort.  These shows have the most obvious relevance for those who study ethnic conflict and international relations (Kate and Ben, too, have much IR content but that is a post for another day). 

I will not discuss Revolution here much since Dan Drezner already took it apart quite brutally.  Bikes!  and Steam!  What were they thinking?  The big point is that sword play is fun, but is fifteen years enough for so many folks to develop excellent swordship?  Where is Arya when we need her?  Of course, in any survival of the fittest, we only see now the folks who managed to succeed, at least those with the swords and bows.  Would the US subdivide into different militias so quickly?  The question, as always, is does the military hold together?  Because if guns still work (and they do), then the US army would still have heaps of guns and heaps of bullets.  Of course, much of the army would be stranded overseas until people figured out sailboats and such.... (yes, the British lady could go back to the UK as long as she was willing to sail/row/steam there). 
      The big question now is insurgency--whether the rebels (who use the US flag, hee, hee) and the militia (the government) behave as we have seen in the study of civil war.  Indiscriminate violence is unwise, but discriminate violence can make a great deal of sense.  So, it may be that Giancarlo Esposito's craziness is crafty and not destructive ... thus far.

Speaking of craziness, Last Resort cited Reagan (when it should have cited Nixon)--that deterrence only works when the leader is just a bit whacky.  This is quite the old conventional wisdom about nuclear deterrence--that if the Soviets already hit Europe, would a sane American president then use nuclear weapons, knowing that Chicago and Boston were next?  Nixon, more than Reagan (as far as I can recall), deliberated over the messaging to Moscow.  Will the Captain of the US Colorado, played by the wonderful Andre Braugher, use nukes against DC?  Well, a near miss (and was he so sure that there were no ships 200 miles from DC?) was good enough?  I don't know--I might think that the near miss signals weakness and not strength.  At least, the show answered my wife's first question quite quickly--why no US effort to blast the boat?  Deterrence.... for now. 
   The next issue is civil-military relations: who is commanding the boat to fire upon Pakistan?  Using an alternative comm network (Antarctica?  Really?) undermined the orders, raising questions, so the sub checked DC and saw no crisis there.  Again, the classic question in any situation is: will the folks who have the guns use them or not?  Turns out the Admiral's daughter was pretty willing, but so were other elements of the crew that were not on the Captain's side?  Distrust should continue to be the theme of the season--the chief of the boat, our favorite Terminator Robert Patrick, should not be trusted anytime soon.  So, the good bit here is that once the Captain questions orders, his authority is splintered in the boat.  Resolving that should take time and effort.
   The third issue is how to run the island with a criminal gang taking US ship-folks hostage?  Depends on how loyal the SEALs are, but they are likely to see the criminals as worthy of being squelched regardless of how they feel about the Captain.  If they support the gangsters, then the show will lack just a bit of realism (well, you know...).  So, this show is pretty complicated and thus far takes those complications seriously.  Still not sure I buy the DC angles of things--that the contractor could confront an admiral so quickly, and that the contractor would be so attractive either.  But that is Hollywood.

I will continue to watch both as I am a sucker for swordplay and subs.  How about you?


Chip said...

just watched first two episodes of Last Resort last night. SO far more promise than Revolution I think. But interesting both are focused on US nationalism oops I mean national sentiment ('cause we're not nationalists!) in times of crisis. Let's see where they go with that.

Lauren Konken said...

I too am wondering where all the guns went in Revolution. Though they did explain that all ships were confiscated and that piracy as re-emerged in the most recent episode, I'm still a little baffled. That and their display that within two weeks of the blackout, there was no form of law or discipline. Definitely one to watch!